The global K-pop sensation talks about the first time she fell in love with music, her fashion choices, and her future plans in this worldwide exclusive.
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Today, Lalisa Manobal, is a global superstar with millions of fans watching her every move, plus record-breaking sales and countless industry accolades under her belt. When she was 15, she left her home country for a foreign land thousands of miles away to pursue a dream after getting an offer (the only one from Thailand amongst thousands of hopefuls) from YG Entertainment, the South Korean music label and management company. After years of training, LISA, as she is commonly known, made her debut in 2016 as the lead rapper and dancer of BLACKPINK; the quartet instantly topped charts with infectious earworms like “Boombayah” and “Whistle”.
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Since then, it has been a meteoric rise for what is now the world’s biggest girl group with two full-length studio albums, a handful of EPs and singles albums, and a series of sold-out world tours. In 2021, LISA dropped her first solo project: A two-track singles album titled LALISA, with both singles racking up massive numbers on all platforms. The project even netted her three Guinness World Records, including “Most Viewed Music Video by a Solo Artist in 24 Hours” for the title track, while the B-side track, “Money”, has notched over 600 million streams and 750 million views. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, she is the most followed K-pop artist on Instagram, with 86.3 million followers as of January 2023. Now on the verge of turning 26, LISA is not just a musical sensation, she is also a fashion force. In addition to CELINE—for which she fronts campaigns, walks shows, and sits front-row—the star is also an ambassador for Bulgari. In this exclusive interview, she tells us about where she comes from, who she is today, and what’s next.
Cardigan; top; skirt; necklace, CELINE. Photo: Dukhwa Jang
What is your first memory of music and when did you know you wanted to be a musician?
I remember the moment I first fell in love with dance—the first time I watched a K-pop idol perform in Thailand is still vivid in my mind. Captivated by the powerful performance and its energy, I decided to learn how to dance and pursue my dream of being a singer. As I learned and explored different dance genres, I naturally grew interested in music, which made me realise that I was totally fascinated by music and dancing.
How has your work as a solo artist informed the work you do as a member of a group?
BLACKPINK members discuss and make decisions together. However, as a solo artist, I had to decide on every detail such as the song, choreography, styling, music video, album covers and more. It was a new experience for me, thanks to my company which valued and followed my suggestions. I gained a lot of confidence in myself, which also had a positive influence on my group activities as well. I believe my decision- making skills improved, which was especially helpful for our comeback [in August 2022].
Jacket, CELINE. Photo: Dukhwa Jang
Dress; bracelet, CELINE. Photo: Dukhwa Jang
What is the most fulfilling thing about what you do?
I just came back from our North American and European tour. As always, performing onstage gives me the greatest sense of accomplishment. Despite the number of shows I’ve done, every performance is equally valuable. As I go on tour from city to city, I look forward to performing for BLINKs [the name bestowed on the BLACKPINK fandom] there, and I feel a sense of responsibility to give them the best memories. I hope our fans have a good time and feel happy watching us perform since that energy affects me as well. It motivates me to become a better artist so that I can always present excellence to them. I am the happiest and most confident when I am onstage.
You’re constantly in the public eye—what’s LISA like in private?
I see myself as an average person, not so different from other people. When I don’t have a schedule, I usually sleep in, go for walks, and get food delivered. I enjoy such small moments of happiness, just like other people my age.
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How would you describe your sense of style, and what do you want your style to say about you?
As you can see, I love gender-neutral fashion, like what CELINE has been doing. I dress according to my mood. Sometimes I mix a crop top with a skirt, or a boxy jacket with some pants, but what is important is that it projects an androgynous mood. I hope my style shows off who I am—a balanced and cool person.
You work closely with Hedi Slimane—what do you love most about his vision?
Hedi has a keen sense of my potential, which is why I completely trust his aesthetic vision. He is someone who helps me recognise a charm that I didn’t even know I have, or perhaps had forgotten about, and clearly explains to me why it’s my attractive quality. No one can select a perfect CELINE look for me as Hedi does. The mini-dress I wore on the runway [for CELINE fall/winter 2022] felt a little awkward at first, but it didn’t take much time for me to realise that it looked great on me. It’s incredible. Hedi inspires me to find my own charm and gives me the courage to try new things.
Dress; hat; belt; cuffs, CELINE. Photo: Dukhwa Jang
What are the things you find inspiring right now?
Recently, I’ve gained inspiration and energy from performing in so many different cities. Meeting and talking to people from different places, examining what kind of clothes they wear, and looking into their cultures inspires me. The various reactions and feedback we receive from each city also give us energy and creative ideas.
What’s an adventure you’d like to embark on next?
Rather than a big adventure, I would like to travel to a place I’ve never been before with my family after the tour. It doesn’t have to be a trip around the world, but I would like to visit a country I’ve never visited before, especially Egypt! Last year was a very busy year for me, and our “Born Pink World Tour” is scheduled to run until June [with a stop in Singapore on 13 and 14 May], so I’m really looking forward to my trip.